It has recently come to my attention that those of us who work in professional development, particularly in schools and universities cf industry, are missing a rather large boat. A huge, glaring boat.

Generally if you are an educator in a university or school, you have a fairly extensive list of restrictions you are working with whenever you attempt to do something new and/or innovative with your teaching practice. You have both institutional and governmental red tape to comply with, administrative processes to follow, institutional structures, set content and/or assessment etc etc. Change is difficult to effect. There are many rogues and cowboys out there doing cool stuff regardless, but generally, as an industry education is far from agile and conducive to innovative practice.

But – professional development (as an entity in education) is almost entirely unregulated. Almost none of these restrictions apply to us when we are designing training and PD programs. And yet this is an almost universally wasted opportunity. We fill our PD programs with face to face workshops that are generally only a computer click or two away from a lecture. Powerpoint presentations. Paper handouts. We’re presented with a situation which perhaps more than any other scenario in education facilitates truly innovative design, and we’re dropping the ball rather badly.

Now I am aware this is partially a market demand thing. Most people who are the consumers of professional development have the workshop model as their primary concept and this tends to be the expected and requested model. But – somebody has to start changing the status quo somewhere. We should be taking advantage of this opportunity to start a trickle of creative thinking, innovative practice and cool stuff, not biding our time with the same old. Coffeecourses was kind of a nod in this direction on my part, but we still have a long way to go.

Now excuse me while I go write a conference presentation on this. I’ll make sure you all get a printout of my slides.


Sarah Thorneycroft (@sthcrft) · May 13, 2013 at 1:53 am

I’m on a boat! Oh wait. No I’m not. [or, why PD is a wasted opportunity]

@stephenharlow · May 13, 2013 at 2:18 am

@jeanjacoby follow @sthcrft, she is asking the same questions — I recommend giving her coffeecourses idea a go too.

@jumbez · May 13, 2013 at 3:18 am

This -> “PD is a wasted opportunity” by @sthcrft. I love the often leash-free nature of PD. No creativity = Sad JT

Lisa Kabesh · June 13, 2013 at 11:22 am

A colleague and I have been talking lately about PD’s role in contributing to a culture of anxiety in PhD programs. Thanks for this post–it’s got me thinking about how a stale workshop or panel presentation format for what we at my institution call “professionalization” might actually be a significant part of the problem. There is something about the workshop format that invites all questions to be asked, regardless of general applicability to the workshoppers as a group, and compels presenters to share all of their expertise and experience. I wonder if there’s something about such a format that encourages a cataloguing of PD tactics rather than strategies.

Professionalization: A Formula for Anxiety? | Dry-Erase Writings · June 13, 2013 at 7:39 pm

[…] an anxious culture might be transformed. Before sitting down to write this post, I came across Mind the Gap, a blog written by Sarah Thorneycroft, an “academic developer” who works at the […]

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